I frowned when I realized my place setting wasn’t next to Katie’s, but sandwiched between Hallie’s fiancé and Katie’s father, her mother at the head of the table and still instructing different people where to sit. Hallie and Katie leaned in close, chatting about something, and I saw Katie’s mother pointing at her before one of the wait staff avoided Katie with the bowl of steaming mashed potatoes–everyone else’s plate heaped high.

My heart dropped.

Katie’s mother was shaming her about her perceived weight issue–which wasn’t even an issue at all–right in front of everyone, just like a bully.

“Ahem,” I cleared my throat to get the waiter’s attention. “Looks like you missed a plate.”

The waiter shook his head quickly, eyes sliding to Katie’s mom’s as if he were caught in headlights.

“No, no, it’s fine, Sawyer, I just don’t think there was enough–”

“Oh, there’s enough–unless you were wanting seconds for yourself?”

Katie’s eyes rounded, horror seeping through her well-spackled cracks. “Of course not.”

“Sawyer, I don’t want any potatoes, it’s fine.” Katie’s eyes were pleading with me across the table.

My blood boiled. “It’s really not fine.”

I said the words just under my breath, trying to speak to my girl privately, knowing how heartbroken she really was. I could see it in her body language, the way her shoulders slumped and she pressed her pretty full lips together nervously.

“So tell me, baby girl, any famous stars drop into the bakery lately?” Katie’s dad interrupted the silent dynamic with a booming voice and bright smile.

“No, daddy, not lately.” Katie answered, a frown turning down all of her features. She’d never looked so dark and defeated. I wanted to have words with the woman that made my bright and shiny star feel this way.Her mother didn’t even know the real her–the one behind the armor she wore for sustained verbal attacks.

“Well, I’m sure business will pick up again soon, sweetheart, you’re only as good as your last celebrity sighting, isn’t that what they say?” Katie’s mother giggled again and I nearly threw a warm bun at her perfectly coiffed head.

Katie pushed the steamed asparagus around on her plate, tears welling in her eyes, and there I sat across from her–helpless.

“Not gonna lie, I half-hoped we’d get a chance to do it in your childhood bedroom.” I tried to joke later that night in bed.

Katie only half-laughed, her mind a million miles away from me in that moment.

“I can’t stand the way she talks to you,” I confessed softly.

“She’s fine, it’s normal.” Katie snuggled a little deeper into me, the double bed barely big enough for the two of us.

“It’s not fine, not at all. I don’t like anyone talking to my favorite person like that.”

“You’ll get used to it.” I could hear the sleep in her voice already.

“The hell I will.” I countered.

“It’ll just be harder on all of us if you don’t trust me. You think I haven’t tried everything? Hallie wasn’t always like that, ya know. She just learned that that’s what my mom liked–bright lipstick and perfect girls, always smiling and making jokes. It’s the ultimate Stepford-wife and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it.”

“Because you’re not a robot.”

“Well, most days being a robot would have been easier.”

I nodded, fingertips trailing up the underside of her arm and eliciting slow shivers of pleasure from her.

“I’m sure as hell glad you’re not a robot,” I trailed my lips down her neck, “I’m really fucking glad you’re Katie–the girl with the sweet curves that stole my heart at first sight.”

I flipped her warm body in my arms, my fingers eating up her curves as I caressed and possessed every inch of her, my fingers sinking between her wet folds and swirling her damp arousal around her thighs until she was glistening and heated. I had to taste her. I moved down her body, lips seeking out her leaking pussy.

“Oh, my, god,” she breathed with her hands in my hair as I licked and sucked her to wave after wave of release. Her thighs tense around my ears, she cried out in sexy little pants as I nipped and sucked and then added a long digit to her damp core, drilling in and out of her until she was arching of the bed and calling my name.

Let the entire house hear her, I didn’t give a fuck. I wanted her to feel more alive and happy than she’d ever been, it was just lucky for me that included my lips on her skin.

“Mm, love seeing you groan and writhe against my tongue.” I crawled up her body, tucking her into my arms and stroking my fingers through her hair until her breathing came back to normal. “Sleep, sweet cheeks. In exactly eight hours I’m going to want my tongue inside of you again.”

“I think you might want to slow down there, cowboy. You and my dad are going fishing on his boat while I make a damn wedding cake.” She said, kissing me softly. I groaned at the idea of spending a day away from Katie and leaving her to her wolf mother.

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